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Bridging human rights and social determinants of health: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay

Juan Smart (Institute of the Americas, University College London, London, UK)
Alejandra Letelier (Millennium Center for the Study of Life Course and Vulnerability, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Article publication date: 16 December 2019

Issue publication date: 10 February 2020




The purpose of this paper is to do a systematic assessment and testing of identified human rights norms alongside social determinant approaches in relation to identified health issues of concern in four Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) to show how social determinants and human rights frameworks improve population health.


To do so, in the first part the authors analyze the inequalities both between and within each of the selected countries in terms of health status and health determinants of the population. Then, in the second section, the authors analyze the level of recognition, institutionalisation and accountability of the right to health in each country.


From the data used in this paper it is possible to conclude that the four analysed countries have improved their results in terms of health status, health care and health behaviours. This improvement coincides with the recognition, institutionalisation and creation of accountability mechanisms of human rights principles and standards in terms of health and that a human rights approach to health and its relation with other social determinants have extended universal health coverage and health systems in the four analysed countries.


Despite of the importance of the relation between human rights and social determinants of health, there are few human right scholars working on the issues of social determinants of health and human rights. Most of the literature of health and human rights has been focussed specific relations between specific rights and the right to health, but less human right scholar working on social determinants of health. On the other hand, just a few epidemiologists and people working on social medicine have actually started to use a universal human rights frame and discourse. In fact, according to Vnkatapuram, Bell and Marmot: “while health and human rights advocates have from the start taken a global perspective, social medicine and social epidemiology have been slower to catch up”.



Smart, J. and Letelier, A. (2020), "Bridging human rights and social determinants of health: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 3-17.



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